I've got a red-hot icebreaker for you.
The next time you find yourself in a dwindling social situation, where it seems as if the conversation is running on fumes, just fling the following question into the mix:
"What do you think about Jim Cramer?"
It's as easy as that. Cramer is a polarizing figure. Some people love him. Some people hate him. Either way, everybody has an opinion on financial journalism's reigning rock star.
I'll confess to being entertained -- and on occasion enlightened -- by the Mad Money star. However, there is nothing I hate more than when Cramer opens up the phones to kick off the Mad Money Lightning Round.
In rat-a-tat-tat fashion, callers will swap booyahs and holler a ticker symbol Cramer's way. They'll get a snappy line or two in response, occasionally with a silly sound effect as an exclamation point.
It may be entertaining to watch, but it's the equivalent of nails against a chalkboard to me as an investor. After all, we're all looking for stock ideas. It's just not right to boil down due diligence to the ring of a cash register or a charging bull.
Every lightning round leaves me with the same three-word plea, a plea Cramer never heeds:
"Tell me more!"
Walk a short mile in Cramer's long shoes
Let's play a game. I'm going to pretend to be hosting Cramer's lightning round. And you're going to throw out the names of some of my favorite stocks. I'm going to splice out all of the ego-massaging banter and get right to the nitty-gritty one-liners.
(NYSE:RAX): It's the host with the most. To server man? It's a cookbook with the recipe for success.
(NASDAQ:NILE): A diamond engagement ring bought online is an investor's best friend.
(NYSE:NOK): This cell phone giant may be Finnish, but it's not finished.
(NYSE:V): Paper or plastic? Is this even still a question worth asking? Everyone is swiping credit cards these days.
Did any of that work for you? I hope not. It may be a worthwhile exercise to boil down a stock's buy thesis to a Cramer-esque sound bite or a cocktail-napkin scribble, but you really need to know more than what five seconds of a talking head will tell you.
Rackspace Hosting is a fast-growing provider of Web-hosting services with a celebrated emphasis on uptime and customer service. Rackspace has also been making some serious inroads as a host for third-party cloud computing applications.
Blue Nile took a hit during the recession, but held up better than bricks-and-mortar jewelers. The upscale e-tailer remained profitable during the downturn, and is positioned to explode should consumers begin buying big-ticket jewelry items again.
Everyone seems to give Apple
Visa and MasterCard
You have to be hungry for more
Fleshing out snappy sound bites to a few sentences -- as I just did -- is better, but it's still not enough.
As a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers analyst team, I don't settle for bullet points. When we recommended Rackspace Hosting and Blue Nile to subscribers of the growth-stock newsletter service, our advice came in the form of a thorough buy report, complete with financial data and dozens of exploratory observations. There was also a Q&A session with a fellow analyst.
Due diligence doesn't end there, of course. A vibrant community of analysts and subscribers continue to discuss the recommendations, with updates as the fundamentals change for the better or worse.
Does Mad Money do that? Of course not. It may be weeks, months, or even years before a stock is revisited during the show's lightning round. And, as you'd expect, you'll be left hanging with the same three words:
Tell me more.
Whether or not you join me and my fellow analysts for a free trial in time for the next batch of monthly recommendations, never settle for less information than you deserve when the time comes to plunk down your hard-earned money on a stock.
You deserve better than that.
This article was first published May 28, 2009. It has been updated.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that wedding vows may take all of two words, but stock relationships need more. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rackspace and Blue Nile are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Nokia is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.